Category: Diane’s Favorites
Humor and digs fly when two sisters attempt to win a beauty pageant with an Accidental Beauty Queen.
Charlotte is resigned to never being the pretty sister. Her sister, Ginny, has followed in their mother’s footsteps in the pageant world. Charlotte followed in their father’s footsteps by being a reader and a primary school librarian. There is no need for bedazzling, hair extensions or even makeup in Charlotte’s world.
When Ginny invites Charlotte to share her hotel room during the Miss American Treasure contest in Orlando Florida, Charlotte is overjoyed for the chance to visit the Harry Potter theme park. However, the second evening, Ginny has an allergic reaction that swells her face threefold. Ginny convinces Charlotte to pretend to be her in the prelims because the two sisters are (wait for it…) identical twins.
The author does a great job making light of the easy comparison to Miss Congeniality. The makeover scenes are hilarious. When an attractive man sees the real Charlotte under all the glam, things get all Pride and Prejudicey. It is a great mashup—both literary and chick lit at the same time. The Accidental Beauty Queen is highly recommended to anyone looking for a fun happy story. 5 stars!
Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, New Books Tagged with: Chick lit, Dec 4 2018
Have you ever wondered about the engine under the hood of your favorite movie or television show? If so, Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies is a comprehensive resource you need to read.
Beginning with the screenplay, this book has a chapter about each part of the movie making process. Other chapters focus on acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound/music and directing. There is also a short chapter about documentaries in the appendix.
Each of the chapters offer an in-depth look at the work of the providers of the skill. The author defines some industry terms. There are fascinating stories from the past. Who knew the first time the title of production designer was used was for Gone with the Wind? Names of actors and movies are given as both good and bad examples of the skill being studied. Finally, at the end of each chapter is a list of recommended movies to watch to see the craft at its highest level.
Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies is enchanting. It’s perfect for movie fans who want to see the multiple skills necessary to make a great movie. I loved it! 5 stars.
Thanks to Basic Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: movies, Nov 6 2018
Innovative plotting and world building fill the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
What would make the replay of a day over and over immeasurably worse? How about also waking up as different people each time you fell asleep?
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a clever blend of fantasy and Agatha Christie. Not only does our first person narrator have to figure out how and why he keeps jumping from one person to another repeating the same day. He also must solve a murder that appears to be a suicide, while also racing against several other jumpers to win his freedom from the endless repetition. There are also mysterious players outside the action who may be friend or foe.
The mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle is relatively easy for armchair detectives to solve. However, the mystery of how and why the actions replay is more of a puzzler. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is recommended for amateur detective fans jaded by reading too many similar books. It is stunningly original though the middle dragged for me a bit. Still 4 1/2 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: fantasy, Sep 18 2018
A blizzard traps 9 guests, the owner and his son in this homage to And Then There Were None mixed with a bit of the Shining. The guests in An Unwanted Guest include:
- Gwen Delaney in corporate public relations despite having a journalism degree and
- Her college buddy, Riley Shuter, who suffers from PTSD from her work as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan
- David Paley, New York criminal defense lawyer visiting alone
- Ian Beeton, businessman staying with
- Lauren Day, his girlfriend
- Beverly Sullivan, working on her marriage to
- Henry, who doesn’t love Beverly anymore
- Dana Hart, drop-dead gorgeous fiancée to
- Matthew Hutchinson, heir to a large New England fortune
- Bradley, clerk and son of
- James Harwood, the hotel’s owner and chef
- Candice White, an author writing her next book
The Unwanted Guest is an excellent traditional mystery but with many twists and turns. Excellent misdirection and red herrings makes the conclusion rate up there with some of Dame Agatha’s finest. Perfect for armchair detectives up for a challenge. 5 stars! I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I loved it!
Thanks to the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Aug 7 2018
Da Vinci Code + World War Z + Jurassic Park divided by the Bible = Maze Master.
The LucentB virus is 100% deadly and is moving outward from France. Anna enlists the help of Christian professor, Martin, to find “Marham-i-Isa, the legendary healing ointment created by Jesus to heal the sick and raise the dead”—perhaps the only hope for humanity. While searching the Middle East for the ointment, Anna is also looking for her former mentor, the famed geneticist Hakari. In a parallel plot, Hakari is being driven mad by visions of shapes and his belief that he is the second coming of Christ. Wars break out as the virus spreads and nations look desperately for a cure. On battlefields, huge “angels of light” are spotted. Have the end times prophesied by the Bible arrived? Or is it something inherited in our Denisovan pre-historic genes that started the virus and the rest is pure human folly?
I loved the Da Vinci Code back in the day but I adore this book even more! It has the genre mashup that I like so much. It’s apocalyptic and scientific. With its factual underpinnings, it could actually happen. The setting and characterization are well done. It moves at a lightning pace. Overall, it is highly recommended for thriller readers. Open-minded fans of horror, science fiction and Christian fiction might also enjoy it. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for granting my wish for an advanced copy.
Posted in Christian, Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction Tagged with: apocalypse, Jul 17 2018
“The world never ran out of monsters.” Earl Marcus is back fighting them In the Valley of the Devil.
In the rural Georgia mountain countryside, a new preacher has arrived. Jeb Walsh is running for the Senate, pushing his book and preaching his version of hate and intolerence at his town square rally. In the meantime, racist graffiti is turning up all over town. A rumor about Old Nathaniel, a hooded racist killer, has resurfaced after several African-Americans are reported missing.
Earl has recovered from the incidents in Heaven’s Crooked Finger (see my review). He is now a private detective. When his African-American Atlanta police officer girlfriend, Mary, is kidnapped, Earl pulls out all the stops to find her.
In the Valley of the Devil really lives up to the thriller label. It is an exhilarating pulse-pounding ride to the finish. Highly recommended but I cannot overemphasize the need to read Heaven’s Crooked Finger first. Events in the first book continue to impact the characters in this book plus there are major spoilers in here. Luckily, both the first book and this one are excellent and earn 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jul 10 2018, series, Southern Gothic
Snake mating balls! Unusual holiday benefits of steroids! The cheap high of the Container Store’s false promises!
We’ve all been there. Okay, maybe not…but we all agree that life is funny especially when someone else is fending off its slings and arrows. Just like life, I See Life through Rosé Colored Glasses has no easily discernible plot. It just kinda rolls over everything in its way. Most of the stories here are only a few pages long making them a perfect choice for grocery queues and doctor’s waiting rooms (and much less frustrating than the high levels of Candy Crush).
First, I love Lisa Scottoline’s thrillers. The only reason I requested this book was because I was curious. I always assumed that mystery/thriller writers are rather glum and constantly thinking of original ways to murder people (hopefully only characters but who really knows). However, this book was hilarious! It reminded of the Erma Bombeck “families are so wacky” style of books from my youth combined with Dave Barry’s “Florida citizens are crazy” books. Except containing large Italian Catholic families that are both wacky and crazy. Despite being nothing like any of those adjectives, it is easy to relate to—or unfortunately relive—many of the scenes from the book.
Btw, I just refuse to use FaceTime or Skype, even at work—problem solved! Again, this book is gloriously absurd and, I know this is judgey Lisa, fully earns 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, Non-fiction Tagged with: Family, Jul 8 2018
Mary and Sherlock are back to work in Island of the Mad.
Mary’s old friend Ronnie’s “mad” Aunt Vivian has disappeared. Returning early from a home visit to Bedlam, both Vivian and her caregiver never arrive. After a search fails to find her, Mary and Sherlock are enlisted into the search. Mary enters Bedlam undercover as a patient. Lady Vivian has reason to believe Bedlam is a safe harbor and her lifestyle before entering comes into question. The search continues among the rich internationals in Venice.
This is the first book in the series I’ve read and it works as a stand alone. However, some of the teases to what happened to Watson and Mrs. Hudson make me look forward to reading some of the earlier entries later. I selected this series because of glowing references to it in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series by Vicki Delany.
This book is highly recommended to Sherlock Holmes fans. It is also great for historical fiction fans interested in the build-up to World War II in Europe. It’s 1925 and the fascists are afoot! I thoroughly enjoyed the well-researched Sherlock Holmes references along with all the characters. Mary, being a feminist, was especially enjoyable. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Bantam Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jun 12 2018, Sherlock Holmes
Hanging Kokedama: Potless Plants contains instructions for 25 beautiful Kokedamas. The book includes orchids, cacti, ferns, bulbs, herbs and even trees. Kokedamas are created by removing the plant’s pot and replacing it with moss tied with string or wire into a ball shape.
The instructions are clear. The book gently teaches the necessary skills by beginning with the easier plants. There are excellent watering tips too for each plant type.
Great choice for the DIYer who enjoys a minimalist (think Ikea) perspective. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Jacqui Small Pub, and Edelweiss+ for a copy.
#FrugalFriday short review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Non-fiction Tagged with: crafting, home decor, houseplants, Jun 5 2018
“The word is murder. That’s what matters.” And so begins another original take on a thriller from Mr. Horowitz.
First person meta-mystery where the author plays himself as Dr. Watson to a memorable, recently disgraced, consulting detective, Hawthorne. To avoid confusion, when referred to as Mr. Horowitz, I am speaking of the real author. I will use Anthony to denote the author character within the book.
Anthony is approached by an acquaintance, Hawthorne, to write a book about the case he is working on. Hawthorne is an outside consultant to the police whenever a particularly difficult case comes up. This case begins when Diana Cowper goes to an undertaker and plans her funeral down to the psalms and songs. Six hours later, Diana is dead, strangled in her living room. Hawthorne and his shadow, Anthony, inspect the murder scene, interview witnesses and decide on a lead suspect. However, Anthony quickly realizes that Hawthorne is an brilliant secretive unsympathetic homophobe. So Anthony decides the only way for him to continue writing the book is to investigate Hawthorne.
I love the concept of the Word is Murder but not so much its execution. Using Anthony as the narrator in a first-person mystery begs the question how can he be fooled by red herrings when his real self is writing them. It just feels like a manipulative con man is pulling the reader’s strings. However, the book’s conclusion is brilliant and well worth a read. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Harper, and Edelweiss for an advance copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jun 5 2018, Sherlock Holmes
“It all started with a tooth. A metal tooth that could bring the dead back to life.”
Green Lantern senses an evil presence emanating from the deep recesses of the Batcave. The Joker escapes from his electronic cage. Batman is given a dagger by his ex, Talia, to help him in his search for the elusive 8th metal. Meanwhile, the Joker is playing his tricks. This time he says he is trying to help Batman by destroying a machine. You know you’re in for some bad sh*t when the Greek Gods go back to Olympius and bar the door.
The two Dark Days’ prelude stories, Forge 1 and Casting 1, are the best in this volume. Both the art and story are superb. The other stories vary in quality and relationship to Dark Nights Metal. All are interesting for showing how art and writing styles have changed over the years. Other stories included are:
- Final Crisis 6-7,
- Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne 1
- Batman 38-39
- Nightwing 17
- Detective Comics 950
- Multiverse Guidebook 1
If you plan to read Dark Nights: Metal when its collection is released June 12, Dark Days: Road to Metal is a great reminder of its backstory. Plus it’s a great value at 256 pages. The artwork, especially of the Joker and mecha-Batman from the cover, is beautiful and detailed. The dark multiverse plot forcing an epic war is great and continues down the recent dark path of Batman.
Dark Days: Road to Metal is highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, DC Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy. Now onto my ARC of Dark Nights Metal. I can’t wait! Review to be published on its June 12 publication date.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Graphic Novel Tagged with: batman, dark metal, dark multiverse, May 22 2018
Families are messed up. Even, maybe especially, famous ones.
The author of All the Answers is Michael Kupperman. He is a famous, Eisner Award-winning artist and writer. However, he continues to be haunted by his father’s aloof attitude toward him throughout his childhood and adolescence. The author believes that his father’s famous background as the longest running quiz kid may have mentally harmed his father from a young age.
Quiz Kids was a radio show during WWII and continued as a television show in the fifties. Joel Kupperman was the youngest quiz kid. He was a math wizard with a professed IQ of 200+. His mother was the stereotypical stage mother. She took him to nightclubs and together they hobnobbed with all the famous stars of the day (Milton Berle, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, etc.).
All the Answers depicts the author’s perception of what happened to his father when suddenly thrust into fame. Unfortunately, his father never wanted to talk about his childhood and now cannot due to dementia. His grandmother’s scrapbooks provide some answers. But much of the book seems based more on speculation rather than fact. However, that is missing the point. The setting is Joel’s childhood but the mystery is how Michael will deal with his own unusual childhood. Will he become aloof with his own son or will he break the family dynamic?
All the Answers has a great plot that veers into many areas. It’s about families, fame’s costs, dementia, and child actor mental abuse. It is an extremely compelling read. I downloaded it and read it in one sitting. The art is fabulous.
I liked it more than Fun Home and could see other fans of that graphic novel also enjoying this one. Highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Gallery 13, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Non-fiction Tagged with: biography, May 15 2018, memoir
“Something or other is sending half the over-sixties round the twist” in the Flaxborough Crab.
A rash of panty theft, quick grope and runs, and window peeping has befallen Flaxborough. The perps are described as elderly men who scuttle away sideways like a crab. When an esteemed villager is accidentally killed while perpetrating an attack, the police rest easy. But hours later, two more incidents are reported. What is causing the disruption of the usual calmness of Flaxborough life?
This is the sixth book in the Flaxborough Mystery series but it can easily be read as a stand-alone. By using metaphors, the Flaxborough Crab successfully combines naughty details with a totally clean story line that is fine for all ages. Some of the metaphors, especially at the senior picnic using flowers, are laugh-out-loud funny. The mystery is more of a whydunnit than the traditional whodunnit.
The Flaxborough Crab is highly recommended for 20th century police procedural and British cozy mystery fans. It could be likened to a 1950’s precursor of the Stephanie Plum series with the elderly women of the village playing a clean version of Lula. Seriously, this book is funny! 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Farrago Books, and NetGalley for a copy. I can’t wait for the next in the series!
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: cozy mystery, May 2 2018, Police procedural
Page-turner is so overused that it has become trite. Here is how I felt about Obscura by Joe Hart. I…COULDN’T…PUT…IT…DOWN! Literally! I was reading my kindle at stop lights, during boring parts of a telephone conference call at work (with my office door closed of course) and when I should really be sleeping. The plot is completely different from what I usually read. It is a mystery but set in the future that included copious comingled science fiction and science fact.
Humans are increasingly becoming victims of a vicious type of dementia that resembles quick onset Alzheimer’s. Dr. Gillian Ryan’s husband falls victim to it. When their daughter also catches it, Dr. Ryan, a neurologist, tries to find a cure using rats. When her funding is cut, she takes a wild gamble on a six-month trip into space to try to find a cure for an even more virulent version of the disease by using human subjects in her trials.
Unfortunately, revealing any more of the plot would be a spoiler. The best part of Obscura are the wild twists in the plot. What is causing the disease to become more intense in space? Will Dr. Ryan find a cure? What will happen to her daughter?
This book is superb. It is recommended to anyone who wants to read an intriguing rollercoaster ride with a scientific bent and a near future setting. 5 stars! At the time of this review, this excellent read was available on Kindle Unlimited. It is definitely worth picking up!
Thanks to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Kindle Unlimited, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction Tagged with: Family, May 8 2018, science, space travel
Equal parts Alice in Wonderland and the Lord of the Rings with a pinch of politics and religion plus maybe some leftover LSD from the 60s. Rice Boy is a true quest tale with the survival of the world at its core.
The One Electronic, T-O-E for short, is looking for the true messiah. The past 3,000 years have been filled with one fake after another. If T-O-E stops searching for a messiah, he will die. One day after the latest messiah has died, T-O-E asks Rice Boy to be the next messiah. All Rice Boy needs to do is meet with the Tree Keeper downstream in the Dorlish Wood. Rice Boy refuses and T-O-E leaves. Soon, Rice Boy decides to go on a quest to the Dorlish Wood. He meets Gerund going the same way on a quest to kill the Bleach Beast. They decide to journey together. There are two sinister foes, Golgo and Dolly on Rice Boy’s trail.
I love Alice in Wonderland and have read a multitude of remixes and updates of it. Rice Boy is the best of the bunch. It has the feeling of Alice in Wonderland (everything is just enough similar and just enough off to give a feeling of discomfort). The art is brightly colored. The tale is just bizarre enough. The mash-up of religion, politics and fantasy really works to create a deliciously different fairy tale.
While marketed as a young adult title, I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy and especially those who are bored by the similarity of so many recent plots. Rice Boy is magnificently unlike everything else. Plus at 460 pages, it is well worth the price tag.
Thanks to the publisher, Iron Circus Comics, for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: Feb 27 2018
Meticulously researched biography about the world’s most famous conjoined twins.
Chang and Eng were joined by a small tube of skin and shared a liver. Today they would have been separated soon after birth. In the early 1800s, they were purchased from their Chinese/Siamese mother for $500. They were shipped to America in steerage while their owners cruised first-class. The twins were shown around America and briefly England as both racially curiosities and freaks while living as basically property of their owners. Eventually, taking control of their life, they marry American sisters and have 21 children. They also purchase some slaves of their own.
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History does a great job of setting the scene in early America. It relates politics, demographics and culture of each year as the twins travel around the US. The twins’ story is inspiring. Going from slaves to slave owners while being obviously different from all around them is a testament to their intelligence and work ethic if not their morality. Times were different back then and the author tries to place their decisions within the culture of the times.
I enjoyed Inseparable hugely. It reads like fiction despite being fully developed from contemporaneous sources. This book contains so much history, it would also be a good resource for authors writing historical fiction in the same time period. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Liveright, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Non-fiction Tagged with: Apr 3 2018, biography